Installing Linux with Flash Drive

Installing Linux or testing linux using a flash drive or thumb drive is very simple and fast. The reason you should use a flash drive to install linux is because you can try out a ton of versions of linux without continuing burning cd's and dvd's. There are of course a few requirements but nearly every computer since 2002 will be able to follow these steps.

The Requirements

  • 1GB or Larger Flash Drive
  • Computer with the ability to boot using USB / Flash Drive (nearly every computer)
  • Administrator Access to Format Flash Drive and run LiLi
  • Linux Live USB Creator (also known as LiLi) - Download LiLi

The Process

Now that you hopefully have everything above we can get started. Just to make sure, have LiLi installed. I've had issues with the portable version of it, so I suggest just installing it.

  1. Start up Live Linux USB Creator. This will require administration access, but will usually show up though the UAC (User Account Control) alert which will allow you to run it as an administrator.
  2. Inside of LiLi under "Step 1" and next to the large Flash drive you will want to pick your USB Device. Hard Drives are also listed so make sure you don't pick one of those unless you no longer want any of the data on that device and not be able to boot from it any more. If your USB Device isn't appear make sure it is connect to your PC and click the "Refresh" button next to the drop down list.
  3. Here you can pick your source. If you already have the ISO you can pick the ISO option. This is what I personally do just to make sure I get the most up to date version of the distro. You can also convert a CD of Linux to USB, or you can download right from the LiLi client. There is a large list of Linux distributions.
  4. If you plan on using this USB to save files to while using the Live distro, you will want to setup persistence. This is the amount of space the Live Distro will detect to save files to. For more information on Persistence you can see their official wiki on the subject at http://www.linuxliveusb.com/en/help/guide/step3. If you just want to use this USB to install Linux you should just keep this value at 0 MB.
  5. Under the Options you can keep them as default, but I prefer having the following settings. I unchecked the option of "Hide created files on key" to allow me to easily modify and view the files to be assured they copied properly. I always format the key using LiLi because sometimes booting will not work without it. Make sure you backup all of your data off of your USB Drive. I have a USB Drive just for linux so I don't have to worry about removing files I need.
  6. Click the Lightning Bolt (bottom left). Don't open up options because a lot of that stuff can cause issues to your Live CD / Install USB if you are unsure what you are doing. Just wait while the ISO extracts or the distro gets downloaded. This could take a while depending on internet speed and file write speeds.
  7. On the computer you wish to install Linux on, plug the flashdrive into it and reboot the computer. Keep in mind installing linux on your computer could remove all the files so be sure to backup or properly manage partitions. After rebooting your computer, during POST you will want to open up Boot Options. POST is the black screen before you notice anything relating to an operating system such as the Windows logo. To access Boot Options it varies a lot from motherboard to motherboard. My laptop has it set to ESC, but I have seen it be F9, F10, F11, F12 and Delete. It will usually say on the bottom of the screen very quickly, so read fast. You can always restart your computer and keep trying. Once on the boot menus boot from USB. It will sometimes show the name of the USB Device. It is not a USB CD or Floppy so don't pick that option.

Now just follow the Linux Steps to install or try out linux. Below are some possible issues you may run into, and more features LiLi provides that could better fit your needs / requirements.

Common Issues

The USB Drive will not boot, it goes straight into my default operating system when I try to boot.

Make sure you are booting from USB. Even changing the boot order in the bios to USB first could help. If this doesn't fix the issue, try LiLi again and make sure you format the key in FAT32 (an option in LiLi). This has fixed booting issues a few times for me. If you are still having issues booting your computer / motherboard may not allow USB Booting. I would search your PC Model number or motherboard (if custom built) to see if USB Booting is allowed and if there are any common issues with booting from it.

When choosing a source it says "This Linux is not in the compatibility list."

This issue arises when the ISO you picked is not a supported linux distribution. Make sure you are using a linux distro and not trying to create a Windows USB Install. Check to see if the distribution is in the "Download" drop down and use that version instead. If it isn't you can still try to create a USB for that distro but it may not work.

Other Features in Linux Live USB Creator

LinuxLive in Windows: LiLi created a Virtual environment where you can test Linux distros without having to reboot and install distributions. During the process of creating a USB under options you can enable "Launching LinuxLive in Windows". After you create the USB

Alternate USB Installers

  • UNetbootin: Linux USB Creator that runs on Windows, Mac, Linux. Offical Website
  • Windows USB Tool: Creates Windows 7/8 Bootable USB for installation (Windows Only). Microsoft Page